Bristol might be famous for its nightlife and hard-hitting electronic dance music scenes, but it’s also one of the most family-friendly cities in England. In just about every neighborhood and suburb, there is a quality activity for families. Along with affordability and pleasant weather, the number of fun and educational activities has turned Bristol into one of the UK’s best holiday destinations for families with small children.
Often, though, traveling with the family means traveling with way too many bags. Make things easier on yourself by dropping off your possessions at a Bounce luggage storage in Bristol. Traveling light will make it much easier to get to more of the many family-friendly activities there are in the city.
Not only are there action parks, and three zoos in Bristol, but there are also world-class museums, historical landmarks, and lush green spaces for families to explore. Whether you’re looking for an exhibit that might inspire your child to become the next great astrophysicist, or simply a large field for them to run around and tire themselves out, Bristol has you covered with a wide array of wholesome activities. Here are the most fun things to do with kids in Bristol:
Visit M Shed, Bristol’s Premier Museum
Located in the bustling Harbourside, M Shed is the most popular museum in Bristol. Originally a transit facility, or “shed” in the 1950s, this structure has been repurposed into a museum that documents the history of Bristol.
Witness the city throughout the decades and centuries, with indoor exhibits that provide a glimpse into what life was like in Bristol at various points throughout history. There are firsthand recollections from both notable figures and normal citizens that tell the story of how the Bristol of today came to be. Rich collections of art, artifacts, and relics archive distinctive events and periods of Bristol history, and illustrate the importance of keeping our understanding of history intact so we can appreciate the present.
While most of the museum has permanent exhibits, there are traveling showcases and workshops where kids of all ages can learn these stories and explore the past. There are outdoor exhibits, including steamboats, cranes, trains, and other antique vehicles that will capture the imagination.
Even better, M Shed is free to the public, making it one of the best free things to do in Bristol. M Shed is a particularly important place for local kids to explore their history, but anyone can appreciate the incredible array of artifacts and impeccably curated assortment of educational programming. It doesn’t hurt that you get to walk through the beautiful Bristol Harbour to enter M Shed.
Get Curious at We The Curious, Bristol’s Best Science Museum
This museum has more than 300 exhibits spanning a massive museum, and each of them begs the question “what if?” While there is a huge diversity of programming throughout the museum, the central themes of We The Curious are asking questions and figuring things out through collaboration. The many interactive attractions seek to implore children to use their reasoning, creativity, and open minds to figure out how they can solve problems, and move past obstacles to create a better world.
The renowned Project What If has become one of the best science centre exhibitions in the UK and has garnered attention from curious locals and travelers from around the country. The focus is local, however, the goal is to gather over 10,000 questions from people all over Bristol, so that curious young Bristolians can better understand their city, and perhaps even solve some of the problems facing their community. It’s a participatory exhibit, that explores both art and science that will captivate the best young minds in the city.
The 3D Planetarium is the headlining feature of We The Curious. This virtual exhibit allows kids of all ages to explore the cosmos through an immersive experience hosted by the Live Science Team. This will enthrall curious kids of all ages, as it may or may not resemble some of the video games they’ve been missing since their parents made them leave home for the museum. We The Curious is situated in the heart of Bristol’s historic Harbourside, so there are plenty of other fun activities nearby, including the M Shed, and SS Great Britain.
While most people associate Bristol with electronic dance music and the Clifton Suspension Bridge, there is an incredible history of aviation throughout this city’s history. That’s where Aerospace Bristol comes in, a museum dedicated to the history-making aircraft that have called Bristol home. There are airplanes from several decades (including the earliest known aircraft of the time), helicopters, satellites, and even military aircraft equipment.
Interactive exhibits also provide an educational component to the museum. Kids will learn the history of the UK’s aerospace industry and even a little of the science behind the technology we enjoy to this day. Kids can climb into the cockpit of the iconic Concorde, and even board the world’s fastest passenger jet to see how the folks of yesteryear flew in style. This museum is just outside of Bristol off the M5, near Cribbs Causeway, which is an excellent place for shopping.
Explore Ashton Court, Queens Square, and Other Green Spaces
Another outstanding completely free thing to do with kids in Bristol is to find one of the many gorgeous parks or green spaces to get some sunshine and fresh air. It’s a great way to tire the young kids out before naptime or get some much-needed exercise after indulging in some sweet treats.
A great place to start is Queens Square, a well-kept, expansive park surrounded by gorgeous Georgian buildings. On any given afternoon, there could be one of many festivals, markets, or events held from spring to fall. It’s not far from Bristol Temple Meads Train Station and is walkable from plenty of other attractions and neighborhoods. Brandon Hill is another charming park, with exceptional views of the iconic Cabot Tower. Other favourite places include Canford Park (Westbury-on-Trym), Oldbury Court play park (Fishponds), Horfield Common, The Bearpit near North Street, Ashton Court, and Stoke Bishop Park. In just about every corner of Bristol, there is some sort of park or green space to enjoy a sunny day under the trees.
Brunel's SS Great Britain (The #1 Tourist Attraction in Bristol)
Rated Europe’s ‘Most Welcoming Museum’ and one of the UK’s Top Ten Museums by TripAdvisor, this museum is situated in the wreckage of the world’s first great ocean liner. This is one of the top attractions in Bristol and for good reason. It captures a specific and fascinating time in the city’s maritime history, and its impeccable restoration can give a glimpse of the past that you won’t find anywhere else.
The most famous Bristolian, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, first came up with this attraction when he came across this wrecked steamship, and decided it could become one of the top attractions in England. Everything from first-class to steerage was restored back to its original state and preserved so that curious Bristolians could be transported to the past. There are also ‘underwater’ views that offer a glimpse of what a ship looks like from underwater. The storytelling component weaves a charming and dramatic tale of the SS Great Britain and its passengers. This is a must-visit if there ever was one!
Walk The Clifton Suspension Bridge
One of Bristol's most iconic architectural features, the Clifton Suspension Bridge, is free to walk along. Even better, you can enjoy stellar views of Bristol Harbourside, Cabot Tower, Avon Gorge, and the surrounding cityscape. Enter through the Abbots Leigh gate and pop into the visitor centre for an educational exhibit. The story of Brunel, the bridge’s designer, is told through various activities and artifacts. There are also geological facts about the Avon Gorge, and river. Test your family's problem-solving skills with puzzles and quizzes. There’s also a Clifton Suspension Bridge Penny Souvenir Machine for keepsakes. All in all, this is one of the best things to do in Bristol doesn't require you to spend money, and the kids will love it!
Learn How to Create Street Art at Where The Wall
Help your kids channel their own Banksy at this constructive exhibit. Bristol is famous for its street art and graffiti scene. All over the city, there are murals with vibrant designs, which perfectly illustrate Bristol’s musical and artistic contribution to urban youth culture in the UK. Where The Wall is an award-winning organization that teaches children to create their own street art in a respectful and beautiful and constructive way. Their Introduction to Stencil Art class is a way for children to channel their creative side, and learn how to apply art to the real world. You can even bring the piece home as a souvenir.
Broaden Their Culinary Horizons at Za Za Bazaar
Bristol’s restaurant scene is certainly one of the city’s strengths, especially with neighborhoods like Stokes Croft. But eating out with kids can sometimes come down to convenience, and it rarely leaves space for variety. That’s where Za Za Bazaar comes in. This is one of the UK’s biggest restaurants, and it has a feel of a night market or food court. Dishes from around the world are served here, and there’s a wonderful cultural diversity on the menu. The playful atmosphere and family-friendly seating will encourage the kids to try everything from Tex Mex to Vietnamese cuisine. Even better, the parents will finally be able to indulge in a spicy curry or Pad Thai dish without having to worry about what the kids will be able to eat. While the menu’s palate is broad and at times exotic, pizza and pasta are still available for the pickiest eaters and very young children.
Bristol Zoo Gardens
Bristol has one of the UK’s best and most diverse zoological traditions, so it’s no wonder how this city manages to boast THREE major public and private zoos. Bristol Zoo Gardens is an award-winning open-air park with over 300 individual animal species from every continent. There are endangered and exotic species throughout the park that are hard to find anywhere else.
Highlights of the park are the western lowland gorillas and sloths from South America. There are also fun exhibits like Bug World for those who aren't scared of insects, a Meerkat House, a Bat Walkthrough, the Reptile House, and the Penguin Coast. If you need to tire the kids out, there is an adventure playground with a swing set, ropes, and other fun features. Bristol Zoo Gardens is located near the city centre in the Clifton neighborhood and is highly accessible from Bristol Coach Station and Park Street.
Visit The Wild Place Project
Located off the M5 near Cribbs Causeway, the award-winning Wild Place Project uses its expansive grounds to care for hundreds of different species, including wolves, lynxes, giraffes, zebras, lemurs, cheetahs, and many more. The award-winning Bear Wood spans over seven acres of woodlands that faithfully recreate the natural habitat of bears when they last roamed the British Isles. There are walkways throughout the exhibit where visitors can watch bears, wolves, and wolverines. Wild Place Project is the first UK zoo to ever achieve this level of accuracy in recreating the natural habitat of its animals.
There are also fun play areas for young kids, including the Congo Bongo and Barefoot Trail. The outdoor climbing pavilion, Leap Of Faith, also offers adults and older kids an active adventure that tests their climbing ability.
Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm
This zoo, located in the neighboring city of Wraxall, is where the largest animals are kept. All the big hitters are at Noah’s Ark: white rhinos, lions, zebra, giraffes, bears, and African elephants all roam the expansive grounds. Over 100 acres of scenic countryside accommodate dozens of exhibits. One of the best features of the park is the Interactive Keeper Talks, where zookeepers share their expert knowledge of these beautiful creatures and enlighten visitors about how conservation efforts are keeping these species alive.
The Great British Wildlife Maze is the longest hedge maze in the UK and offers kids of all ages to test their problem-solving skills by navigating their way to the nest tower for a magnificent view of the zoo. The kids will have so much fun at the play area with fun stuff like a zip wire for older kids, trampolines, slides, arcade games, and a sand pit. There is also an indoor play area for children under five, including a rainbow slide and playground. These will keep kids of all ages occupied and tire them out for the ride back to Bristol City Centre.
Traveling with kids can be a challenging experience, but with the right planning and a good destination, it can be both rewarding and entertaining. Bristol is one of those cities that caters to anyone and everyone, especially families with children. With all of the fine museums, zoos, and incredible landmarks to appreciate (and tire the young ones out), it’s no wonder so many families travel to Bristol for a family vacation. Keeping track of a ten-year-old in a new city is challenging enough, let a Bounce storage facility take care of the luggage, so you can enjoy your family time in Bristol.